The current prospect landscape looks as promising as it has been in a few years, due to a very strong 2013 NHL draft class and the fact an NHL lockout in 2012 and short training camp kept some top prospects from making the jump last season. As such, there are a plethora of talented players who appear primed to make an impact at the NHL level this fall or sometime in the near future.
The following players comprise my top 100 prospects. These rankings are based mostly on the conversations I have had with scouts and front-office executives, on top of video scouting I have done myself. However, the rankings are completely my own.
I tend to give a slight emphasis to puck possession skill in my rankings, based on numerous studies that show it is the single best predictive measure of team-level success. Performance is taken into account as a secondary factor, adjusted appropriately for age, team strength, league quality and other contextual elements. Defenders are given slightly less value than forwards of equal skill level because of the higher projection uncertainty inherent in the position. Goaltenders are valued even more harshly, as they have a much higher projection uncertainty than any skater, take longer to get to the NHL, are very unpredictable season to season and the current NHL goalie landscape is very bunched up in talent -- and also abundant in supply.
Slightly more value is given to players who have had professional-level success, as well as prospects who are closer to playing in the NHL. "The Russian Factor" -- fear that Russian prospects won't cross over from their home country to the NHL -- is not taken into account.
The cutoff for prospect eligibility is 25 NHL games played last season or 50 career NHL games, and they have to be age 26 or under as of Sept. 15.
At the time of the 2013 NHL draft, I wrote about how the top spot was a three-way tie for me between Drouin, Nathan MacKinnon and Seth Jones, but Drouin ultimately got the edge. Drouin displayed some of the best offensive ability of any first-year, draft-eligible CHL player over the past decade. He won the QMJHL regular season and playoff MVP as well as the league's best pro prospect award. He was a top-six forward at the World Junior Championships for Canada, and won a Memorial Cup. He is an elite puck possessor with ridiculous skills and offensive hockey sense. Drouin is a little small at 5-foot-10, but he is also a very agile skater. Combining those traits with his great puck abilities make him a nuisance to stop. He has game-breaking potential.